How to Handle Obnoxious, Intrusive Neighbor
December 15, 2013 7:02 AM   Subscribe

Every time my new neighbor sees me, he feels the need to ask me some intrusive question or make some annoying comment about what I'm doing or my habits. I feel like he's invading my privacy and he's very aggressive. How do I handle this?

I'm a 20-something female. A middle aged man recently moved in with his two early 20-something children in a ONE bedroom condo adjacent to mine. The man is constantly doing laundry. Every single day, for most of the day. Every time I try and do laundry (once, twice a week) his crap is in there and he's hogging all of the machines, and he leaves his laundry in the machines for hours. He's loud, screams in the hallway at his kids occasionally, and slams his front door. My first interaction with this delightful character was in the laundry room. He started making small talk with me, and I was polite but short. He couldn't take a hint and kept going on and on, and he eventually aggressively asks me what unit number I live in. I ask him why he wants to know, and leave the room quickly after he blabs about his unit number. The next time I see him, he's in the hallway leaving his unit as I'm heading toward mine. We pass each other, and after a few paces I hear his keys/change in his pockets stop right behind me, so I turn to look, and he's literally stopped walking toward the elevators and turned all the way around just standing there waiting to see which unit I go into. After he's 'caught,' he quickly turns around and walks off. The next time I see him he makes this obnoxious comment about how 'early' I get up to go shopping in the mornings. This morning, he comes into the laundry room and asks me why I'm standing in there and what I'm waiting for (my washing cycles were just about finished and I was waiting to put my clothes in the damn dryer). I'm about to sock this guy in the face the next time he says something to me. What would you do??
posted by OneHermit to Human Relations (50 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
I would start going to the laundromat.
posted by xingcat at 7:06 AM on December 15, 2013 [23 favorites]

Start wearing earbuds every time you're outside of your apartment. Then even if you do hear him, you can act like you don't. It's annoying to have to deal with and that's probably not a good long-term solution, but it's something you can start doing today that will help a little bit, anyway.
posted by something something at 7:09 AM on December 15, 2013 [15 favorites]

One option would be to turn this sort of thing back on him, and make it so the second you see him you've got stuff to say to him -- nothing rude or objectionable, but nothing he will like. "Hey, I'm glad I ran into you because I need to talk to you about your yelling in the hallway. I can totally hear every word from inside my unit." "Oh! There you are. Look, about you slamming your door?" "Did you know recycling pick-up is Thursday? I ask because I haven't seen you take yours out?" On and on and on, no aggression but with nary a kind word.
posted by kmennie at 7:14 AM on December 15, 2013 [19 favorites]

All of the things you mentioned just seem annoying, nothing to get too worked up about, except him watching to see which apartment you entered. That's kinda creepy. Creepy people take advantage of nice people. I bet you are a nice person, but you don't have to be in this situation.

I advise you act tough even if you aren't feeling it -- like trying to look threatening to a wild dog. "What are you looking at, huh?!" Things like that. It's ok to do that. Completely ok.

Another thing that is completely ok, but lots of people don't know: When somebody asks you a question, you don't have to provide an answer. None at all! You can ignore them, just look at them blankly, question why they need to know, lie to them, turn the question back to them... anything at all. You are under no obligation just because they are curious.
posted by Houstonian at 7:15 AM on December 15, 2013 [25 favorites]

So he's a troll, and feeds on confrontation. The best way I know to deal with that is to keep my interactions icily formal. You can ask for what you need and be assertive about it, which will be no fun for him, but if you get angry or snarky or otherwise emotional you will only make things worse.
posted by jon1270 at 7:16 AM on December 15, 2013

Everyone else in this building is polite and respects the privacy of the other tenants. I don't get this guy. And I would never punch someone out lol Just illustrating how annoying he is.

@Houstonian, I agree that if a stranger asks you a personal question and it feels intrusive you are in no way obligated to answer. That said, I really would prefer not to make enemies with someone who lives right next door to me.
posted by OneHermit at 7:21 AM on December 15, 2013

Three things

- Go to laundrymat, or better, get a little dual washer/dryer installed. It's totally worth it even w/out the neighbor!

- Wear headphones, but I don't trust this guy, so keep the sound off and stay alert.

- Is there a condo president or someone similar you can discuss this with? It's time you spread the word this guy is overly interested in you, don't hide it or keep quiet. It's not time yet for anyone to step-in on your behalf, but in no way should you be having to parse this alone.

This guy is totally weird. You need to notify the appropriate party overseeing your building, just in case.

You can get a $20 coded door alarm at Home Depot that is SUPER easy to install and use. If you don't already have an alarm, get one.


- Call your city and see what the regulation is for occupancy in a one bedroom in your jurisdiction. It's likely 3 adults in a one bedroom is illegal, and that might be grounds for the unit's owner or building management to evict. Don't mention this to anyone, just find out for sure and keep the knowledge in your back pocket in case you need to press the issue.


Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 7:26 AM on December 15, 2013 [30 favorites]

Just to be clear, I fully expect that once this guy managed to get you to be friendly with him, he's the type to make up an imaginary issue and pick a fight. He will do this to put you on the defensive and to "take control" of the hallway, so to speak, since he probably knows deep down that the yelling, door slamming, and overcrowding in his unit is not acceptable.

Don't let him set you up like this.

Continue to ignore him and share your concerns about his creepy attention on you with the appropriate party so that you're not dealing with this alone if/when he escalates.

He seems really unstable. Sorry you're dealing with this.
posted by jbenben at 7:34 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

The best purchase I ever made was a washer and dryer so my introverted self doesn't have to leave the apartment and have to talk to others. If you don't have w/d connections, I recommend going to the laundromat.

I think to some people, he might not seem that bad (minus the unit issue), but I would feel the same as you. To be honest, I would do as much as I could to avoid this person. Wearing headphones (may not work), always talking on your cellphone(my favorite) or having a friend with you (male seems better, IMO) could help.
posted by KogeLiz at 7:37 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Most buildings I lived in that had laundry put signs up about not taking up all the machines, transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer promptly, etc. If he is really doing laundry all day, every day (seriously?), I'm sure it's annoyed other tenants too. A few of you could get together and bring it up to the landlord or management company. For example, they could designate peak hours during which each tenant is limited to the use of one machine. Off-peak, he can have at it. If the rule is enforced (big "if," I know), he'll be more likely to do his laundry during the off-peak times or go to the laundromat himself.

If he is not really doing laundry all day, every day, try to discern the pattern of when he tends to use the laundry room so that you can avoid him.

And, yeah, headphones. Not unobtrusive little earbuds, but big over-the-ear monstrosities that telegraph to the world that you've got your own soundtrack going on.
posted by payoto at 7:46 AM on December 15, 2013

To all the laundromat suggestions- this building has nice laundry rooms on each floor, and they are not stocked with coin operated machines. The machines are free. There's no reason for me to have to lug my laundry to a laundromat when I have free, clean facilities in my midrise. I'm going to start taking my laundry to another floor each time I do it. However, it really irks me that I have to do that in order to avoid being bombarded with this obnoxious man's energy. I really would prefer to either confront him and ask him not to speak to me, or deal with it in some other way.

I do have washer/dryer hookups in my condo, however, they are located in a long closet that has no depth to it. Only the tiniest stackable front loader and matching dryer on the market will fit in there (and from the reviews online I've gathered that they are crappy machines).
posted by OneHermit at 7:52 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I'd give random answers the way politicians do, to divert him. why I'm standing in there and what I'm waiting for. Yeah, big storm last night. Or Hello, laundryman. Or. Just Oh. Hello. Be prepared with stuff to say that is bland. If he persists, be really generic. Laundry, I'm doing laundry. And look at him like the fool he is. Also, My, you're so full of questions. He is unimportant and probably kind of stupid. Practice on him for when you have a worthy verbal opponent. Don't let him drive you from your home and facilities.
posted by theora55 at 7:58 AM on December 15, 2013 [14 favorites]

I agree with everyone else above. The only thing I would add is whether he is renting his condo, or owns. If he rents, there is someone else he is accountable to--his landlord.

Also, if he really is using all the machines, seemingly all the time, I might also express my concern to the Condo President (during your conversation as jbensen advised above) that he may be trying to run a business with Condo property, which I imagine is a big no-no.

Good luck!
posted by China Grover at 8:00 AM on December 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

as jbenben has noted, three adults in a 1-BR is likely illegal, either by city ordinance or the condo association's CC&Rs, and this is the lever by which you should remove him from your building without delay.

i vote against earbuds/headphones, because it means he has forced you to do something, and you will appear less alert to your immediate surroundings, which might put you at greater hazard.

you are under no obligation to answer anybody's questions. you know a secret that he doesn't, so just do your broad smirk or beatific glance to heaven, and if you must say something "i can't hear very well right now cuz my ears are ringing, just got back from the gun range."

yes, laundromat, but also: selfish people who hog machines and leave laundry in there unattended for long time invite neighbors to put other things in with laundry just for lulz.
posted by bruce at 8:05 AM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Have you ever spoken to his kids? Getting involved with legal occupancy is going to escalate an unpleasant but manageable situation. Next time you want to use the washing machine and his duds are in it, pile the stuff on top of another machine. If he pitches a fit, call the super/ landlord. He's not going to take any hints. Say hello, and don't smile, make small talk or act pleasant. You don't have to be agressive, but be tough, wear a bitch face, and don't engage.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:10 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

My mother's advice to me: don't engage. Don't say anything and don't answer any questions.

It's strangely empowering, when someone you don't want to talk tries to get you in a conversation, and you just look at them and don't say anything.
posted by Locochona at 8:12 AM on December 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

I agree with ideefixe - just remove his stuff if it's sitting in a machine.

But I also agree with jebenben - this sets off all my alarms. The guy's not safe - give him a wide berth. I'd resist the temptation to verbally spar and just go on cold ignore.
posted by Miko at 8:12 AM on December 15, 2013 [17 favorites]

You know, I'd call him on his bullshit personally.

"You know, it is rude to take up the laundry machines inattentively when other people on the floor need to use them too. I understand that you have three people crammed into a tiny one bedroom apartment and that may not be an ideal situation for you; however, that is the situation you are in, and if it is misery for you in there - the misery needs to end at your door. This is a common space. Share it and treat your neighbors with respect."
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:26 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

You say there are laundry rooms on other floors? Use those.
posted by clone boulevard at 8:27 AM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

He really wants to engage with you.

Don't give in, even to tell him off.
posted by jbenben at 8:36 AM on December 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

He's asking you personal questions because he wants to know whether to classify you as a friend or an enemy. Guys like this see feuding with people as an activity, he wants an excuse to put you on the very long list of people who have found him annoying and therefore deserve what small acts of meanness that present themselves.
No way you are going to be his friend, but if you want to try to occupy the vanishingly small neutral area you have to a) never snitch, and let him know you don't appeal to authority to solve problems and b) treat him with respect, this may seem like total capitulation, but think of it as cop addressing an obnoxious drunk as "Sir".
posted by 445supermag at 8:37 AM on December 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

In my old career, I dealt with a higher percentage of rough, abrasive, combative, pushy, and rude people than you would encounter in the general population.

What I learned in dealing with those types is that unless you're willing to be blunt and up-front with those people about what's okay and what's not okay, it's like you're going into a boxing match with both hands tied behind your back.

You have, in some sense, to get the conflict "out in the open." These people's aggression and rudeness feeds on meekness and politeness.

Once you've called them on what they are doing, and shown you are willing to engage them about exactly what's going on ... things will get better.

I suggest the next time he says something intrusive, rude, or says anything that makes you uncomfortable, you say "you seem to think its okay to talk to me about my business. It's not. You are annoying me and making me uncomfortable. Please stop."

Then -- every time -- you repeat. "Here you go again. I told you you are annoying me. Please leave me alone."

People like this love steamrolling over people with an exaggerated middle class sense of manners and decorum. You really would do better to make it clear you regard him as a pest, a creep, and an enemy, than trying to manage his conduct with politeness and manners. Politeness and manners will not work with a guy like this, and the situation will eat at you emotionally.

Being blunt will provide you with huge emotional relief and will fix this situation.
posted by jayder at 8:52 AM on December 15, 2013 [24 favorites]

Invest in a couple of cheap laundry baskets. If there is laundry sitting in the machine and the cycle is finished, put it in the basket, and leave the basket near the machine with an UNSIGNED note saying, "So sorry to disturb your things but other tenants needed to use the machines!" Take a picture of the basket and the note. Proceed to do your own laundry.

I would say the first time you do this, be sure to wash low-priority things that he could not easily identify with you like towels or sheets in case he retaliates in some way. If he does, again, document it and take it to your landlord/building manager.
posted by elizeh at 8:53 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I really disagree with all the suggestions that you should take your laundry outside of the building to an inconvenient laundromat because of this pushy asshole. Going to another floor seems like a good solution. I would also flat out blank the guy every time he tried to engage, aka the Cut Direct. Stare right through him every time he tries to ask you an intrusive question.
posted by elizardbits at 8:55 AM on December 15, 2013 [13 favorites]

You wrote: "I really would prefer to either confront him and ask him not to speak to me, or deal with it in some other way."

I sense that you are not afraid of him on a gut level. Good. As long as this remains the case, the next time he's in the laundry room taking up your space, asking you questions, say to yourself loudly: "This guy again? Why is he always in here doing laundry and trying to talk to me all the time?"

If he persists with the questions, turn them back around on him:

"What's it to you?!" "Are you seriously running your own laundry business out of your apartment?" "You have how many people living in there?"

These are rude questions that take back the power. The one asking the questions has the power, which is, of course, exactly why he's doing it to you. Take the power back.

Nthing others who have said you should involve the building management/his unit owners right away, and let them know you are being harassed and that he is using multiple laundry machines, multiple times a day, and has X many people living in X size apartment.
posted by hush at 9:07 AM on December 15, 2013

[One comment deleted; OP, AskMetafilter is not a space for a back-and-forth discussion. You've described the situation and people are giving suggestions for how to handle it; you can choose which of those suggestions seem best to you. Thanks.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:19 AM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Hmm. Having read your question and follow-ups, it sounds to me like you're giving this guy WAY too much space in your head. He definitely sounds annoying, especially if you've grown used to not having to interact with your neighbors, but it sounds like you're letting every irritating thing he does pile up into this giant ball of egregiousness that leaves you super wound-up and reactive to any move he makes. Again, I don't blame you - I've had neighbors who have done this to me, too! - but I think you would do well to process his "trespasses" on a one-by-one basis to give yourself more control and equanimity.

Most serious would be anything he does that seems genuinely threatening. Watching you to see where you live would be my number one issue here. Be wary of this guy and don't let him know where you live if you can avoid it, but recognize that it's nigh-impossible to live right next door to someone and not have them know it forever. If you genuinely think he's a danger, assume he does or will know where you live and start figuring out what you need to do about this.

Least serious would be the things you are passing judgment on that don't really need to be your concern. So his apartment is small and he lives there with other people; so he's obese; so he uses stain removers on the armpits of his clothes (??) - maybe it would be helpful to recognize things like that as qualities your brain is using to build a case against this guy and why he is worthy of so much hate, but that you could just as easily let go of, to your benefit. You truly cannot control any of these things, and really, are they relevant to the issues here?

In between would be those things that impact your quality of life that you can do something about. Sort these out one by one. Leaving things in the laundry: either use a different floor, or take his stuff out of the washer/dryer if it's sitting there. The latter is a common behavior among people with shared laundry facilities, and will prevent his laundry habits from affecting your ability to wash your stuff. Being loud: does your condo have a clause about quiet hours, quiet enjoyment of your property, etc? Turn in a complaint and let your board deal with it. That's what they're there for. Making small talk at you: honestly I don't think the questions he asked sound terrible enough to warrant some of the aggressively rude responses offered in this thread, but maybe that's just because I'm not there to see just how terrible this guy is. So maybe stop and assess: is he really being a horrible human being with his questions or just a person making awkward small talk because that's what we're conditioned to do when another person is in the room with us? If it's the former, then hell, fire away with whatever feels good to you; if it's the latter, simply keep up the cool, minimal replies and realize you don't owe him conversation. Either way, remind yourself that what he does is nothing to you - if he asks what you're doing in the laundry room, so what? If he tries to chat about your assumed shopping habits, who cares? Answer or don't, give him a "yep" or tell him you don't like talking to strangers, and let his existence slide off of you as best you can.

In short, you sound incredibly wound up over this guy, and that's probably hurting you more than he is. Definitely trust your judgement and do what you need to be safe around him, but beyond that, for your own sake try not to build him up into something bigger than he really is.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:10 AM on December 15, 2013 [11 favorites]

The next time I see him he makes this obnoxious comment about how 'early' I get up to go shopping in the mornings.
This would make me uneasy - he apparently is watching you enough to not only know what time you leave in the morning, but also that the purpose of your errand is to shop (he sees you return with groceries, so he knows you're not leaving for work or a doctor's appointment).

Are you friendly enough with any of your other neighbors to casually ask if they've encountered any similar behavior from Mr. Nosy? It might be reassuring to know that he's that way with everyone/others and just a general busybody rather than singling you out. In the meantime, I would not reveal any personal information to him, no signs of friendliness; when he asks you a question, ask it back to him. Him:"Why do you go out so early to shop?" You: "Why are you watching me leave my home?" Him: "Why do you do X?" You: "Why are you asking me that?" If he hedges and charges it off with "I was just wondering...", don't give any leeway, keep asking "I don't understand why you want to know/why you're asking." Perhaps if you make it too difficult for him to interrogate you he'll ease up. And do invest in that Home Depot alarm.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:14 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

This guy wants to stalk you. He is making a point of watching you, finding out exactly where you live, and telling you that HE IS WATCHING YOU. I think it's worth the money to do your laundry elsewhere, at the very least.

If it were me, I'd (a) take great pains to avoid him, (b) move if you can, and (c) talk to some condo management people about his behavior, at the very least. I would not confront him because as you say, he doesn't "take a hint" and he's perfectly happy to be openly stalkery and creepy to your face. I think engaging in conversation with him will only egg on the crazy.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:56 AM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

There are two things in this scenario that I think you can reasonably turn over to whomever is in charge of the condo building: the guy's hollering in the hallway, and what appears to be excessive use of laundry facilities. Disruptive noise in common areas and abuse of common facilities are legit complaints. I would put a complaint in writing to whomever handles rules and regs for your condo, and continue to file complaints as incidents occur.

The other stuff -- him being intrusive and nosy -- are issues you will need to deal with directly. With this type of character, being blunt is best. "Look man, what I do with my life is none of your business, just like what you do with your life is none of mine. Knock it off with the questions already."
posted by nacho fries at 11:00 AM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Nthing this... also, unnecessary staring is harassment.
posted by brujita at 11:38 AM on December 15, 2013

You should just do laundry on another floor. I do get that you don't like him making you have to do that, but. Think of him as like a barking dog that you always have to pass on the most convenient way home. When tuning it out is hard, walking another route is a way to make one thing easier on yourself. Avoid the barking dog and spare your nerves.

If I were caught in conversation with him, I'd willfully and disingenuously misinterpret, mishear or misunderstand his questions until he learned to run away at the sight of me.
posted by tomboko at 12:06 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

One note on removing his stuff from the machines: people can be super weird and territorial about laundry. Even though you would be perfectly within your rights to take his stuff out and put yours in, this might lead to him escalating it into Laundry Wars where he watches your loads like a hawk and yanks your stuff out the moment the cycle ends, unless you too are in there watching over your stuff.

In other words, he might use it as an excuse to get in your face even more, or to rifle through your laundry (eww).

As irksome as it may be to use the machines on another floor, I'd take that over having to interact unnecessarily with this man.

Also: I'm not sure I'd rat him out about having his two sons living with him in a 1-bedroom, unless you are 100% sure it violates some code or condo rule. I think doing so crosses a line into Nosy Neighbor territory, and is a bit culturally snooty (it's perfectly fine in some cultures for families, including adult kids, to share smaller spaces). If the sons aren't giving you a problem, don't drag them into it.
posted by nacho fries at 12:09 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

The last time I had a neighbor like this, he was regularly entering neighbors' apartments to steal small things (cash, pills but not the whole prescription bottle, valuable but unused items stashed in drawers, etc..) via a "bump key."

Various neighbors called the police over missing items, but he was never caught in the act. The thefts stopped when the guy and his wife finally moved.

That's why I keep popping in here, OP. This guy you describe smells "off" and I don't trust him or anyone living with him.

Our old neighbor made a total spectecle and nuisance of himself, and it was all to cover up his scams and stealing.

That's the feature that strikes me most similar to your situation, OP.

Most certainly this guy is goading you and setting you up in some fashion. Even if it's just a neurotic play to set you up as someone he's feuding with, his actions aren't simply mere annoyance.

I know this is my third time in here. I guess I shoulda started it with, "this guy sounds EXACTLY like my old neighbor, who turned out to be a thief, especially the attention seeking acting out stuff," but I didn't.

I was serious about ignoring the guy and getting an alarm if you don't have one.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 12:42 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly, I am incredulous at some of the advice you are being given in this thread.

The best line you can take is to read DingoMutt's post and go with that. I would strongly disagree with some of the advice you are getting to do or say some of the aggressive things people are suggesting in this thread.

Based on your post, I'm seeing a guy who is a little socially inept. Maybe he does have an annoying personality. Or, maybe he comes from a part of the country or from another culture where neighbors are a lot closer to each other... for example, in the South and Midwest, my experience is that neighbors are generally far more conversational and interested in each other's business than in the Northeast. Or, he may not be very good at reading between the lines and noticing when someone doesn't want to be talked to.

He's asked you a few innocuous questions (unless he was truly asking them in an aggressive, leering way). Asking someone what unit they live in, or asking them what they're doing can be two friendly questions that are not out of bounds in most people's book.

The odds are that in his mind, you are a strange, confrontational young woman who is behaving very oddly. He probably felt he was asking you a very straightforward, neighborly question about where you live in the floor, and was weirded out by the fact that you immediately got defensive and left. He probably watched where you were going in the second instance because naturally, he was curious. Why is this young woman being so weird? Where does she live anyway, why wouldn't she tell me?

Look: your gripe about the washers is legitimate. Your gripes about the noise might be as well. Your gripe about three people living in the condo seems petty, but I suppose it's legitimate if it really is against the law in your area. And maybe this guy really is aggressive and leering toward you... but I doubt it, given that you are characterizing as "obnoxious" a comment that sounds pretty reasonable and neighborly (the one about getting up early to go shopping). If he is truly threatening you, by all means, take appropriate action... but if you just don't like him and his personality, and you don't ever want to be asked any questions by your neighbors, that's a different story.

You are letting him get into your head, as DingoMutt says, and you're demonizing him. If you want to follow up with your condo management or board about the laundry issue, by all means, go for it... but maybe you could be a little friendlier to him in the meantime?

The hyperventilating advice you are getting that this man must be a stalker or a thief seems over the top to me. If he aggravates you that much, avoid him... but don't escalate the situation by being rude, aggressive, and confrontational to a socially inept guy who might mean well.
posted by Old Man McKay at 12:53 PM on December 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

The normal thing to do if someone refuses to answer questions is to stop interacting with them, not to step it up. Even if he's just 'socially clueless' no one is obligated to respond to intrusive questions.

This guy sounds like trouble, and the safest thing to do is not to engage. Don't speak to him to all, do your laundry on another floor, and report the noise anonymously. I'd also want to know if other neighbors are having these issues with him or it's just you. If it's everyone that's one thing, but if it's just you that's something it's important to know.
posted by winna at 1:05 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

He asked you which number you lived in, he turned around one time, he sometimes leaves his washing in the machine, and now you're 'ready to sock him'. He asked you which unit you live in - which sounds perfectly reasonable - and you asked him why he wants to know (which doesn't seem reasonable. He was making small talk, it's what new neighbours do all the time).

Reading between the lines, it seems the problem with aggression and hostility may at least be partly yours. If you want to ask him to change his behaviour - in other words, ask him to give you something - you are going to have to give him something first. You can't make a withdrawal in a relationship if you've never made a deposit. What you give to him may be as small as not walking out of the room when he tells you which number he lives in, or smiling at him in the hallway. Unless you want to move to get away, this guy is now a part of your life and making your relationship work is as much your responsibility as it is his.

Good luck!
posted by matthew.alexander at 1:44 PM on December 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

Honestly, this guy sounds more to me like he's going to set you up to schmooze off you.

I have a neighbor who is very similar, when we moved in she was overly curious. She'd peek over our back fence (she lives across the street to the front!) and ask really personal questions while telling me all about her hard life.

Luckily for me I got the heads up from somebody who knew her, and sure enough after about a month of her "being friendly" she started asking for favors. Could I drive her to get her medicine? Will my husband shovel her walk? Can she have a few cans of chicken broth, six eggs, and three cups of flour? She isn't elderly and has a perfectly functioning car of her own. She just wants me to do things for her for some reason.

I agree with all the above who have told you to completely ignore the guy. He's looking to use you for something. Whether it's a friend or foe, the best idea is to just freeze him out. Report what you feel is important to the landlord (hogging the machines, excessive noise, and too many people.) but otherwise act as if he isn't there.

As for hogging the laundry room. If his stuff is in the washer I would move it to a dryer, then when I needed a dryer I'd move it to a table/bench/chair/empty surface. This is Laundry Room 101. Dude can't act like he owns community property.
posted by TooFewShoes at 1:59 PM on December 15, 2013

Reading between the lines, it seems the problem with aggression and hostility may at least be partly yours.

Nah, I think he's pushing the boundaries to find out how much he can get away with, using your basic courtesy against you. Trust your instincts. If you aren't physically afraid of him, I'd push back a little bit, (just so he knows you aren't afraid to answer rudeness with rudeness) and I'd for SURE be in contact with your neighbors and condo board just so you know if he's pulling similar things on them, and so they know what's going on. You don't have to make a big thing of it- just chit chat.
posted by small_ruminant at 2:01 PM on December 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

I live in an apartment building. I know who lives in the apartments on my floor, and how many people are in each unit. I know which neighbors go to church on Sunday morning and when my next-door neighbor's boyfriend comes to visit. I've also remarked to someone that wow, they are getting out to go shopping early, when they come trundling out with their cart as I'm heading to work on a weekday.

I'm not stalking them. I'm not stealing things out of their apartments. I'm not asking them for money. I'm making small talk when I see these people -- my neighbors -- in common areas. And some of them do the same. (The others? Eh, after people not returning "hellos" three or four times, I get the hint and don't talk to them. Others aren't as keen on figuring that out.)

Now if he starts to try and shove his way into your life, or waits for you at your door, or grabs you, then we can all start suggesting police and The Gift of Fear.

In the meantime, you can either take your laundry to another floor or ask him when he thinks he'll be done using the laundry room so you can get some loads in.
posted by kimberussell at 2:13 PM on December 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Based on your post, I'm seeing a guy who is a little socially inept. Maybe he does have an annoying personality. Or, maybe he comes from a part of the country or from another culture where neighbors are a lot closer to each other... for example, in the South and Midwest, my experience is that neighbors are generally far more conversational and interested in each other's business than in the Northeast. Or, he may not be very good at reading between the lines and noticing when someone doesn't want to be talked to.

Just wanted to echo that I think this is a cultural misunderstanding, because I would see his behavior as normal and neighborly (much more so than yours).

His chatting about run-of-the-mill household/domestic stuff like "oh, which unit are you? I'm in Unit [#]!" and "you're such an early bird!" sounds like completely ordinary, friendly small talk to me. I'd guess that him watching you frantically flee from him into your apartment was probably about him being puzzled and kind of hurt. I'd react the same way as he did (and probably have even struck up the same kind of building/household-related smalltalk with neighbors), and I'm an utterly boring American woman in her late twenties.

It sounds to me like he's maybe from a slightly different culture than you are, seeing as things like how he interacts with his family and runs his household seem foreign to you. It also sounds to me like you're not actually scared of him, you just find him annoying. That makes me think there's maybe a misunderstanding and some inflexibility going on, rather than something more worrying. He hasn't done you wrong, as far as I can see, so I wouldn't assume that he's anything other than what he appears to be -- a friendly new neighbor with cultural norms slightly different from yours.

As someone who comes from a culture that is probably a whole lot more like his than yours (god forbid my family moves into your building): if it were me, I'd say hi to him in the halls, deflect any questions I didn't like him asking about me (likely to be boyfriend/husband/kids-related) by asking him about how things are going with his kids/health/apartment, and drop by with "extra" anything I've got (if I'd cooked too much of a big dish or baked too many cookies or bought an overly huge pack of whatever at the store because it was on sale or whatever). If it were me, and I needed to do laundry but he'd been monopolizing the machine, I'd just ask him if it'd be OK for me to run a load, or I'd take my laundry to another floor. On big holidays, I'd drop by his place to say Merry Christmas! or Happy New Years! (etc), and maybe exchange small presents and/or share a toast.

I definitely wouldn't report his family to the condo board, that just seems cruel. He and his kids are trying to make a life for themselves in this building, and you're going to try and run them out on a rail because he does a lot of laundry and they aren't especially discrete about closing the door soundlessly?
posted by rue72 at 2:22 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

At first I thought that how I would handle it would depend on whether her was an owner or a tenant, but then I realized it matters more whether it's a large building (40+ units) or a tiny building (like a 6-flat)

If it's a large building, regardless of whether the neighbor is an owner or a tenant, I would complain to my condo board (and to the owner of record/landlord) that the neighbor is misusing laundry facilities (do you have building rules and regs?) and that there are three adults living in a one-bedroom condo (this is against the rules and regs in my building, as it's against the law in my city). I might mention to the board that I felt his behavior was harassment, but did not feel it had risen to the need for a formal complaint.

If it's a tiny building, and it's a tenant, I would talk to a neighbor that I did trust about my concerns and complain to the owner of record/landlord. If it's a tiny building and an owner, I would talk to a neighbor that I did trust to get a sense of whether it's possible to address my concerns safely and sanely.

The laundry room behavior and the too-many-people in the house behavior are legitimate concerns for the building management, whether that's a large management company or a small owners' board. You address that through management.

His weird behavior that makes you uncomfortable is a different problem and not really one the board can do much about. When I ran into a woman at a meeting the other day who mentioned she lived at my address, I asked her which unit, not because I wanted to stalk her or creep her out, but because the units are all different and I like talking about the features of the building. I know which unit everyone on my floor lives in because they are my neighbors and if the pipes start leaking through the walls again, I think it helps to know people's names and locations. It could be he's an idiot who can't handle social interaction well, but he's not necessarily a scary creep for not picking up on your "don't talk to me" vibe or asking which unit you live in.

He might be and if he feels to you like a creep, you could, like many other people have said in the thread, put an alarm on you door. If you want to absolutely refuse to engage this neighbor at all, that's fine, too. I would do it like this: the next time he tries, you say "Please, do not talk to me." and walk away. After that, no more. No nods, no hellos, no fuck offs, no eye contact. I do not mean "avoid eye contact by looking at your feet"--I mean avoid eye contract by shifting your gaze just slightly to the side of this neighbor's eyes, so you continue to stand upright and look confident, rather than start shrinking in on yourself. You've established your boundary; now keep it.

I have no idea what this guy's deal is--is he a jerk? a scam artist? a person with mental problems? just a guy who you'll never really like? I don't know--I don't think it matters. What matters is you establish a wide "do not talk to me or engage with me, ever" buffer around yourself, if that's what you want. You don't owe him anything else.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:24 PM on December 15, 2013

It's possible to say "Oh, what place do you live?" and "Gosh, you're early today" and sound totally not creepy. It's also possible to be a complete creep about these things. If you sense he's being a creep, then trust your instincts about this.
posted by jeather at 2:32 PM on December 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Please consider locking your door, for even small tasks like doing laundry. It may be paranoid for me to say this, but he does live right next to you.
posted by invisible ink at 2:49 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

If he makes you uncomfortable and you don't want his attention, do your laundry on the other floors. There could be a cultural issue here, or it could be a guy who will drag you for miles (for whatever reason) if you give him an inch. I think it's goosebump, chills-down-my-spine creepy for a middle-aged man to be chatting up an unfamiliar young female, in an isolated location, about where she specifically lives and when she does her shopping. That's not "small talk." "Nice weather, huh?" is small talk.

As another 20-something woman, I've learned to (1) trust my instincts, and (2) don't give strangers the benefit of the doubt. Against my instincts, I made polite small talk to a middle-aged man at my small town's laundromat once, because it was the Expected Thing To Do, until he said I had "pretty hair," and then I iced him out. A month or so later, on a complete whim, I saw him on my county's new sex offender Website: convicted of sexual assault, and he lived directly across the street from my then-apartment. I live in a small, near-crimeless Midwest town of 9,000 (but pretty much "live" in the big city I work long hours in, so I don't (care to) know my neighbors or even read my town's newspaper), where the norm is "aw shucks, we're all neighbors here!" Point being: you never know, and it's not worth it to find out whether he's just weird or if your instincts are right.

You don't owe this guy anything. You're there to do your laundry, not make friends. You're not in the wrong for that.
posted by coast99 at 3:09 PM on December 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

OK, maybe this is a derail, but if you are worried about people bumping your locks, get a better lock. I like Schlage Primus.
posted by ryanrs at 3:33 PM on December 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

That he's aggressive about finding out which unit you're in after you overtly declined to share this information plus the general discomfort about him that you express in your post makes warning flags go up for me. There are definitely a lot of people out there who lack social skills and are totally harmless. There are also plenty of people out there who try to pass themselves off like they are merely lacking in social skills who are in fact extremely dangerous. It's okay to proceed like he's dangerous without finding out the hard way.
posted by bile and syntax at 4:27 PM on December 15, 2013 [8 favorites]

Honestly, I would neither confront the guy, nor ice him out completely. I would benignly ignore him. I would put my bluetooth headset in my ear every time I left my unit or entered the building. If I saw him I'd make some "uh huh, uh huh" noises and walk right past him, no eye contact. If he spoke to me, I'd point to my headset and silently mouth "I'm on the phone" and then move along.

As for the laundry, I can understand wanting to go to another floor, but I personally am stubborn enough not to let someone else control my actions that way. Get the condo board to post formal rules regarding the laundry, ie "any load left in the machine longer than 15 minutes after the end of the cycle is subject to being removed by the next user". That way if you remove a load, you aren't doing anything to him personally, you're just "following the rules".

That all being said, I think jbenben makes some excellent points about both safety and security. I can see that his personality type might be such that he would add up all of your "slights" and "confrontations" as reasons to "get back at you", and then actually carry through with breaking in, or maybe keying your car, or whatever might make him feel like he has power and control. That's why I say benignly ignore - you aren't being confrontational and you aren't being deliberately cold - he'll lose interest and pursue another target who engages him in some way.
posted by vignettist at 9:26 PM on December 15, 2013

Thanks for all the replies. No I do not feel that my safety is threatened I just feel that he is incredibly nosy and intrusive. It's an arrogance and a pushiness really. Not a stalker-next-door kind of thing.

I think what I am going to do is not engage him like some of you have suggested. And do my laundry on another floor because he simply annoys the heck out of me with his ever-presence in there. If he asks intrusive questions, I'm going to blatantly ignore them. I'm not going to wear headphones, this guy has no power over me. He isn't going to lead to a need for me to have headphones on me every time I leave my condo.

Thank you MeFites!
posted by OneHermit at 10:59 PM on December 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I think you're on the money with not engaging with him. If you don't give a response, most people will eventually stop trying to engage.

If he thinks you're a little weird or aggressive or rude or whatever, that might actually work to your advantage. If he knows that talking to you is going to be a negative thing, then he's less likely to do it. You can achieve this by being blunt, or short, or passive aggressive or whatever. If he doesn't like the fact that you're not nice to him, then he gets to not engage with you. He is the one forcing himself into your awareness, not the other way round. If he doesn't want to deal with a rude person, he can just not engage. It's not like you're forcing yourself into his realm of awareness. He is forcing himself into yours.

I too would be creeped out by someone ignoring an implicit boundary. Him asking you which apartment you lived in might just have been neighbourly, but him waiting to see which apartment you went into goes a little beyond that. If he asked you a direct question and you didn't answer, that should probably be clue enough. If I can't think of a good reason someone wants to know X about me, they don't get to find out. In and of itself, the question about your unit number wasn't that egregious. It's the way he escalated his intention to find out that creeps me out.

If he still asks you questions, consider answering them. If he asks you what you're doing in the laundry room, look at him, frown slightly and after a beat, say "waiting for my laundry...?". He might not see (or simply ignore) the tone implications of this, so it might backfire. It's a pretty silly question to ask, given the fact that there aren't many reasons you're likely to be stood in there. Telling you his unit number after you refused to tell him yours piqued me, and it sounds like something from The Gift Of Fear's "Pre-Incident Indicators".

The door slamming, raising his voice and leaving his clothes in the machines all seem to me to be ways for him to obtrude himself onto your notice.

Ultimately, this guy might be completely harmless. He might even be the Buddha in disguise. That still doesn't mean that you have to get to know him. You don't owe him anything simply because he wants something from you. You have the right to choose who you want to engage with on a daily basis. For what it's worth, I would be bothered by this guy too. In my experience, someone who doesn't respect implicit boundaries doesn't respect explicit ones either, and in the past, I've gone out of my way to make sure that a boundary crasher knows that that kind of shit doesn't fly with me. It's not a pleasant thing to do, but I've found it to be the only effective way, sometimes, to get someone to back the hell off.
posted by Solomon at 3:05 AM on December 16, 2013 [5 favorites]

« Older I'm a grown-up, but I still don't know what I want...   |   Lego Power Functions - Trying to stay sane! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.